Trial begins in slayings of two youths Defendant was convicted of murder attempts in N.Y.

December 05, 1997|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Opening a case in which a 29-year-old man is accused of killing two Baltimore boys -- hoping to send at least one "into a better land" -- a city prosecutor described to jurors yesterday how the youths were strangled with a cord and left to die.

"You will hear statements -- taped statements -- in which he confessed to strangling both of these victims," said Mark P. Cohen, the assistant state's attorney who is prosecuting the case against Shawn E. Brown.

Brown is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Marvin Wise, 8, and Obdul Richards, 16, last year. He is also charged with sexually assaulting three other boys last year.

Police say Brown stalked children, drawing them into an apartment he shared with his sister in the Flag House Courts public housing high-rise and assaulting them at knifepoint. Prosecutors will not seek the death penalty in the case.

Catherine Flynn, one of Brown's lawyers, urged jurors to "keep an open mind" while listening to evidence in the case, including testimony from Brown.

Despite the taped confession that Brown reportedly made to police, the defendant says he did not kill the boys. Brown's lawyers were hoping to prevent a tape recording of police questioning him from being introduced into evidence during the trial.

Brown suggested during a motions hearing before the trial that he made the statement under threat.

The police officer "started kind of in a very threatening way," Brown said during the motions hearing. According to Brown, the officer said, "I can't promise you that you won't get the death penalty, but I can try to help you."

But Baltimore Circuit Judge Joseph P. McCurdy, who is presiding over the case, said Brown was clearly aware of his right to be silent before he gave the confession. McCurdy said he would allow the confession into evidence during the trial.

In that statement -- one of several to be introduced during the case -- Brown says that the 8-year-old Wise isn't dead. "I can tell you he is safe. I can tell you he will have a better life," according to the tape played during the hearing.

Brown later says, "I stopped the functions of the body," he said. "I stopped them by cutting off the air. In the interest of being humane, I caused a block in his throat."

Brown has been convicted of attempted murder of boys. Before being charged in the killings in Baltimore, Brown served nine years in a New York prison for nearly strangling a 10-year-old Syracuse boy in 1986, an attack that followed the near-strangling of a 7-year-old boy.

After those crimes, Brown, who had run away from a Johns Hopkins Hospital psychiatric ward in Baltimore, said in a confession that an alter ego named Philip LaBrought ordered him to molest young boys.

Pub Date: 12/05/97

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